Preserving Memory: The Making of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

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9780140245493: Preserving Memory: The Making of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Linenthal follows the Holocaust Museum from its nearly incidental beginnings in domestic politics, recounting important stages in its conceptualization and realization--from choosing the site, to the design of the building and exhibits, through an obstacle course of political, logistical, ideological, and spiritual dilemmas, to the art of defining for the American public the Holocaust itself and its place in history and memory. Illustrations throughout.

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About the Author:

Edward Linenthal is professor of history at Indiana University, Bloomington. He is the author of The Unfinished Bombing: Oklahoma City in American Memory and Sacred Ground: Americans and their Battlefields.

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President Carter created the President's Commission on the Holocaust in 1978. It then took 15 years of bitter and emotional debate to design and build the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. Linenthal, author of Sacred Grounds: Americans and Their Battlefields (1991), chronicles all that went on during those painful and acrimonious years as Holocaust survivors, politicians, museum professionals, historians, and architects struggled to define "the boundaries of Holocaust memory." Linenthal deftly summarizes all the complex issues that had to be resolved. Jews believed that they should be the focus, but members of other groups victimized by the Holocaust demanded equal representation. Some felt the memorial should be in New York; others fretted over whether Washington, D.C., was an appropriate location. And what an agonizing task it was to create a memorial that both eulogized and educated without simplifying, sensationalizing, or offending. Linenthal portrays major players, including Elie Wiesel, Yaffa Eliach, and architect James Ingo Freed, who was finally able to visualize a building "expressive of the event" after traveling to Auschwitz. A sobering, yet fascinating, testament to the value of preserving memories with respect and creativity. Donna Seaman

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